In this season of giving so much of the focus tends to be on what we will give to others. Did you know that you can give yourself the gift of putting your wants and needs back on the list and it will be actually be good for others in your life too? Not only does taking better care yourself encourage others to do the same, it allows you to show up for them as the very best version of you. Last week was about how following your dreams, or even just starting to recognize that they exist, inspires others to pursue their passions too. Plus following your deeper purpose means that you will share your unique gifts with the world and make it a more interesting and wonderful place to be.
This week is about remembering that life is not only about working hard, but also taking time for joy.
As a mom and small business owner my to-do list is long, and I just love to check items off my list as done. In fact I’ve been known to even occasionally put things I’ve already finished on the list just to have the satisfaction of crossing them off. With the endless nature of my list, I have had to accept that I will never actually complete all of my varied tasks, especially not if I want to have some time in my life for fun! So I have had to accept that I can’t allow unchecked to-do’s to stop me from doing the things that make my life so lovable. I have to keep choosing to occasionally leave the dishes undone so I don’t miss my daughters first successful bike ride without training wheels. I have had to shut my computer down mid blog post, and leave texts unanswered to wholeheartedly and attentively put my girls to bed.
If I’m not careful and aware I can easily allow my life to be all about the doing and thinking, and not nearly enough about the feeling and being. I can easily fool myself into believing that balancing work and play will be easier when there is more time, money, energy, etc.... Or that balance is a destination where I will one day arrive, rather than the reality that cultivating balance will be a never ending journey. I can also trick myself into thinking that I am more valuable the more I do- and usually our modern culture will support that backwards, busy is better mentality.
Does this sound familiar?
The Yogis have known for thousands of years about this tendency to be more of humans doing, rather than humans being. In fact they describe 4 primary aims of life so we can have a map that helps us avoid the common detour of a more mechanical, workaholic, lackluster way of living- and follow instead the way towards a happy, balanced, and fulfilling existence. One of the aims described is the experience of pleasure ( another one happens to be Dharma which was last week's topic if you missed it). The desire to follow what feels good (and avoid that which doesn’t) is one of the forces that makes the world go round. It’s the experiences of joy and beauty that add purpose and color to our lives. Pleasure can take the form of intimacy or sensuality, but also shows up as a sunset, impromptu dance parties, laughing until you hurt, and chocolate cake.
The truth is that living a life without pleasure, or a balance of work and play, is like trying to row a boat without oars. Sure it will float along, maybe turn in circles, and definitely react to the push and pull of the waves- but a rowboat without oars ( or a life devoid of pleasure) has no way to guide the boat purposefully. It’s simply at the mercy of the current. Without the oars of joy guiding our lives it’s easy to lose sight of why we are working so damn hard in the first place.
How does making time to enjoy our lives more help others?
So what do we do since quitting our jobs and shredding our to-do list’s is rarely an option? Well first I think we stop treating our work ( whether that is keep a home or running a company) as if it is separate from our lives. We stop waiting for the clock to hit 5, or to cross the last item off our lists to take the time to smell the proverbial roses. Instead let's turn on music and dance while mopping the floors, eat lunch under a tree instead of in front of the computer, light a candle while folding laundry , and take regular breathing and stretching breaks to recharge because it feels good and life is just too short not to. Practicing yoga and meditation helps too. Taking the moments of mindfulness that spiritual practices provide strengthens the ability to slow down, tune in, and more easily notice when the scales are tipped too far towards the have to’s and not enough towards the want to’s.
Prioritizing pleasure (not to the point of gluttony or greed) shows our loved one’s that happiness matters- not just mine, or your’s - but theirs too. It brings out the best in all of us, and the best in humanity. Enjoying life more creates a positive upswing in both our physical and mental health, counteracting the effects of stress and avoiding burnout. Feeling good usually translates to treating others well too, loved ones and strangers alike. Setting aim towards work/life balance is one of the most valuable ways we can give ourselves the gift of self care, show up for others as the best versions of ourselves, and inspire and help our loved ones to do the very same.
Got some time for Yoga today- here is a practice to help you discover how to cultivate more balance, and prioritize your joy. Remember it's not just good for you- it good for everyone else too!